SteamWorld Dig was one of my favourite games on the 3DS. It eventually made its way to PlayStation 4, Vita, and PC. The core gameplay there and polished presentation made it one of the best indies released that year. The team and Image & Form went on to do a strategy game as opposed to an action adventure like Dig in the form of Heist that even released on iOS. I liked this even more than Dig and the team has outdone themselves with SteamWorld Dig 2. This is a sequel to SteamWorld Dig as the name suggests but the improvements and new features are staggering across the board.
You play as Dorothy here who was an ally in the original SteamWorld Dig. Dorothy also uses a pickaxe as she tries to uncover the mysteries that lie below the town that has colourful visuals all over while maintaining the signature SteamWorld art style. Dorothy’s journey will see doomsday devices, boss fights, eerie alien planet like areas, and more as she continues to dig while looking for Rusty. Fen is your companion from the outset and he serves as both comic relief and as a guiding light in some difficult situations. There’s a lot of world building and focus here compared to SteamWorld Dig. This carries over into the gameplay which is no longer procedurally generated but all hand crafted. This makes a huge difference for a metroidvania like game.
Early on, gameplay involves you digging as far down as you can before coming back to town to sell your loot. This almost gets boring but the game opens up quickly and continues to give you upgrades, new abilities, new enemies, and more when you get deep into it. When you just begin, your pickaxe can only damage a few types of blocks and do very little damage to enemies. Exploring rewards you with cogs in some areas that are used to upgrade your abilities. There are also new main abilities you get in some areas like a jackhammer or pressure bombs. Eventually you unlock a jetpack that makes exploring much better. New abilities allow you to explore more of previously discovered areas and there’s a ton of secrets across the board.
There’s one particular section in the middle of the main game that annoyed me. It feels out of place gameplay wise but fits thematically. I feel like it could’ve been done as a cutscene instead of something that felt like it would fit right at home in a survival horror game. Barring that, everything is without fault in the gameplay. Interacting with people you meet in towns, caves, and other areas is always good and it shows how much care Image & Form have put into the little things. Even NPCs are a joy to interact with and something as small as selling your loot has a great animation and interface.
SteamWorld Dig 2 looks more polished and plays beautifully from start to finish. Small things like the in game UI or a lamp in a cave all look gorgeous and this isn’teven taking into account the fantastic character models or enemy designs. The visuals are accompanied perfectly by the Nintendo Switch’s HD rumble that makes things feel a bit more immersive. The stamp on a sell sheet when you’re offloading loot has a nice rumble that plays along with the sound. This is exactly how HD rumble should be implemented in games. Instead of just being a vibration during combat, it complements the sound and what happens on screen perfectly.
El Huervo of Hotline Miami fame has done the music here. I was initially skeptical given the visuals of the game but he has done a fantastic job. The music fits the game perfectly and still sounds like something El Huervo would compose. I hope they put up the soundtrack on iTunes or Spotify as soon as possible.
Overall, we have a contender for game of the year with SteamWorld Dig 2. 2017 is already one of the best recent years for gaming with the likes of Yakuza 0, Persona 5, and Horizon Zero Dawn. Image & Form have more than delivered with this sequel that is great for fans and also a perfect place to get into the SteamWorld universe for newcomers. I just hope they fix the ugly home screen icon on the Switch.